Obama leads Clinton in Wyoming caucuses
Associated Press
Sen. Barack Obama took the lead over rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in early returns Saturday as Democrats crowded caucuses in Wyoming, the latest contest in the candidates' close, bitter race for the party's presidential nomination.
Obama led Clinton 56 percent to 42 percent with 8 of 23 counties reporting.
Although Obama has outperformed Clinton in caucuses winning 12 to her three he spent the hours leading up to the voting dealing with the fallout from an aide's harsh words about Clinton and suggestions that he wouldn't move as quickly to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq if elected.
Clinton, who campaigned in Wyoming Friday, was coming off a 3-for-4 performance on Tuesday, with major primary wins in Ohio and Texas as well as Rhode Island. Her campaign had low expectations for Wyoming and Mississippi, a state with a significant black population that votes Tuesday.
Both candidates were looking ahead to the bigger prize delegate-rich Pennsylvania on April 22.
In Wyoming, 12 national convention delegates were at stake. During the first caucuses of the day, it appeared the state's Democrats were showing up in record numbers. In 2004, a mere 675 people statewide took part in the caucuses.
In Sweetwater County, more than 500 people crowded into a high school auditorium and another 500 were lined up to get inside.
"I'm worried about where we're going to put them all. But I guess everybody's got the same problem," said Joyce Corcoran, a local party official. "So far we're OK. But man, they keep coming."
Party officials were struggling with how to handle the overflow crowds. The start of the Converse County caucus was delayed due to long lines.
In Cheyenne, scores of late arrivers were turned away when party officials stopped allowing people to get in line at 11 a.m. EST. A party worker stood at the end of the line with a sign reading, "End of the line. Caucus rules require the voter registration process to be closed at this time."
State party spokesman Bill Luckett said they were obligated to follow its rules as well as those of the Democratic National Committee regarding caucus procedures.
"Everybody knew the registration began over an hour before the caucus was called to order. We've done everything we could to accommodate people in the long lines," Luckett said.
In Casper, home of the state party's headquarters, hundreds were lined up at the site of the Natrona County caucus. The location was a hotel meeting room with a capacity of 500. Some 7,700 registered Democrats live in the county.
"We'll have to put 'em in the grass after a while," said Bob Warburton, a local party official.
About 59,000 registered Democrats are eligible to participate in Wyoming's caucuses.
Only in the last few weeks have the campaigns stepped up their presence in Wyoming, opening offices and calling voters and sending mailers. The first visit came Thursday, when former President Clinton made three appearances in Wyoming.
The candidates followed on Friday. Clinton held town-hall meetings in Casper and Cheyenne. Obama held a town hall in Casper and a rally in Laramie at the University of Wyoming, counting on support from college students. Obama has been running television and radio ads in the state, while Clinton has been running radio ads.

The state's top Democrat Gov. Dave Freudenthal has declined to endorse either candidate, saying they haven't talked enough about Western issues. State party chair John Millin is backing Obama, while former Gov. Mike Sullivan has endorsed Clinton.
Before the start of Saturday's caucuses, Obama held the lead in delegates, 1,571-1,462, but Clinton has the edge with superdelegates the party officials and elected leaders 242-210. A total of 2,025 delegates is needed to win the nomination.
Although a win in Wyoming may not persuade many superdelegates, it will be one more prize for the candidates as they make their case for the nomination.